Ryan Pulock, Anders Lee and Anthony Beauvillier each had a pair of goals but the New York Islanders were outlasted, 7-6, by a Tampa Bay Lightning team that is leading the East and chasing the President’s Trophy yet still facing some Isles-esque defensive demons.
Several times, the Islanders dug themselves a seemingly insurmountable hole, including two goals conceded in the game’s first three minutes. Several times they climbed back to make it interesting, including a run of three goals in the first five minutes of the third period.
That brought a crazy game back to 7-6 with 15 minutes to go, and that’s how it ended.
First Period: Back to Form
Perhaps the biggest Isles performer, or at least the best sign of the future, was Pulock’s performance in a team-high 23:57 of ice time. At long last, and after much anticipation, the Isles seemed to learn how to properly set up his lethal shot on the power play, but he had a good night rushing the puck and all over the ice.
With the Isles down 2-0 thanks to turnovers in the opening minutes, Jordan Eberle set Pulock up on a 4-on-3 power play for a blast that beat Andrei Vasilevskiy after the two passed the puck back and forth to draw the Lightning goalie out.
Pulock scored the Isles’ second goal on another power play blast, this time with Vasilevskiy well expecting it but unable to stop it after a longer (and quite nifty) cross slot pass from Beauvillier.
Good sign, there.
But anyway, in between Pulock’s two goals the Isles gave up a goal on a Victor Hedman rush to make it 3-1 in the first period, then a short-hander to make it 4-1 early in the second.
Second Period: Ye gods
That shorthander was ugly, nearly predictable, and exhibiting all too familiar poor reads by the Isles on the ice.
The Isles had killed off a Lightning power play to start the second period, so their own extra-man opportunity was a chance to pull within one. But a ring around the boards with four Islanders on the other side of the ice hopped Josh Bailey’s stick, Ryan McDonagh was able to angle him off the loose puck and put a breakout pass by John Tavares, and the Lightning converted the two-on-one with Nick Leddy the lone man back.
Yet again, the Isles gave themselves another chance when Pulock’s goal on the same power play made it 4-2 at 3:20.
And Anders Lee made it 4-3 two minutes later after Bailey intercepted the puck and fed him all alone in the Lightning zone. Lee showed patience to draw Vasilevskiy’s legs open, just as Beauvillier’ would do later in the game.
But then the Isles blew it again three minutes later. On a 2-on-1 with Chris Wagner and Casey Cizikas, a comedy of errors: Wagner shot and he and Cizikas nearly collided to take themselves out of the backcheck. Dennis “veteran presence” Seidenberg pinched along the boards where the wide shot was ringing around, but was beaten to the puck and run into by Cal Clutterbuck who inexplicably pinching rather than covering behind the German.
If you’re doing the math, that meant another 2-on-1, again on Leddy, though Steven Stamkos’ saucer pass was perfect and easily converted by J.T. Miller.
The Lightning added two power play goals — a rocket by Mikhail Sergachev pushed Christopher Gibson from the game after six goals on 24 shots — and the late one against Jaroslav Halak left things at 7-3 and hopeless heading into the second intermission.
Third Period: What’s happening?
So with the game surely lost, the Islanders came out for the third period and...got right back into it.
Anders Lee scored his second of the game at 1:35, chopping at rebounds around the net as the Islanders power play continued its unexpected run of competence.
Immediately afterward, as if a harbinger of oddness to come, Thomas Hickey put one off Vasilevskiy’s post from the center red line. That one didn’t go in, but...it put the “well maybe...?’ feeling in the air.
So Beauvillier made it 7-5 at 3:21, after a nice forced turnover and assist by Eberle, who had three assists on the night.
Beauvillier added another just a minute later, deflecting a Johnny Boychuk cannon from the point. That made it 7-6 just 4:36 into a third period that began at 7-3...and then the scoring stopped.
But still, it made for a much more entertaining third period, with the game actually in question, and the Islanders pushing for an equalizer to the final buzzer, setting up Pulock for a potential hat trick with Halak pulled for a sixth attacker.
And if you’re in the ALL TANK ALL THE TIME set, you got your wish there too.
“He’s worked not just over the course of the last month but over two and a half seasons. Obviously he has a great shot but he’s done a lot of work on the rest of his game.”
>>Doug Weight on Ryan Pulock
“It’s tough, being new to the league, when you’re in and out of the lineup. I’ve tried to build throughout the year, defensively. And I got to a point there where I was comfortable there so I could take my offense to another level.”
>>Pulock on the same
That was all the media talk (the announcers, the reporters with Doug Weight, the MSG desk, and Stan Fischler) after the game. And of course, it’s Pulock’s third pro season and he’s an RFA this summer.
Interesting decision ahead for him and the Isles, over how long to go, and how high to bet.
Saturday the Blackhawks are in town for Eberle’s mini-bobblehead night.